October: Whale Moon

The largest mammal of all – in South Africa and the world – is the blue whale, which can grow to 33 metres in length.

Of the eight whale species found in South African waters (including the dramatic black-and-white killer whale), the most frequently seen is the southern right whale. This imposing creature comes into coastal bays to calve, allowing for superb land-based viewing.

The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) are the two best known whale species that calve along the South African coast between June and December. These giant aquatic mammals were once hunted almost to extinction, an activity in which whaling stations along the South African coast were active participants. Now the numbers of these giants of the ocean are slowly recovering and they return to the warmer waters along the south and south east coasts of South Africa, where they were once butchered in large numbers, to calve in safety. Their arrival and stay has become a welcome attraction for the general public and tourists in coastal towns.

The southern right whale represents one of conservation’s success stories. Once considered the “right” whale to hunt, its population became so depleted that it was designated a protected species.

With the greater familiarity that their return to the coastal bays has produced, they are now as well loved as the many dolphins in our coastal waters.

Place names associated with whales:

Umkomaas is a town in the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality of the KwaZulu-Natal Province situated at the mouth of the uMkhomazi River. Many whales once used the estuary as a nursery and the Zulus named the river accordingly. In isiZulu ‘uMkomaziʼ translates to ‘whale-cowʼ.

UMngenga is a river in the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality of the Eastern Cape Province which runs into the Indian Ocean at Coffee bay. The name sometimes seen as ‘Ngengaʼ is derived from the isiXhosa word ‘imnengaʼ, ‘whaleʼ. In 1844 the name ‘Whale Riverʼ was still in use.

Walvis Bay (Whale Bay) is a city in Namibia as well as the name of the bay on which it lies at the mouth of the Kuiseb River.

Whalehaven is a winery in the Overstrand Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province. It is the third oldest wine producer in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ‘Heaven-and-Earthʼ and has been crafting wines since 1995.

The second Full Moon in October is the Elephant Moon.

Date of Whale Moon (2021–2050)

2021 Oct 20, 17:00
2022 Oct 09, 22:54
2023 Oct 28, 22:30
2024 Oct 17, 13:30
2025 Oct 07, 05:48
2026 Oct 26, 06:12
2027 Oct 15, 15:48
2028 Oct 03, 18:24
2029 Oct 22, 11:30
2030 Oct 11, 12:48
2031 Oct 30, 09:36
2032 Oct 18, 21:00
2033 Oct 08, 13:00
2034 Oct 27, 14:42
2035 Oct 17, 04:36

2036 Oct 05, 12:12
2037 Oct 24, 06:36
2038 Oct 13, 06:24
2039 Oct 02, 09:24
2040 Oct 20, 06:54
2041 Oct 09, 20:06
2042 Oct 28, 21:54
2043 Oct 18, 13:54
2044 Oct 07, 02:30
2045 Oct 25, 23:30
2046 Oct 14, 01:42
2047 Oct 03, 01:42
2048 Oct 21, 20:24
2049 Oct 11, 04:54
2050 Oct 30, 05:18

During October, we also celebrate World Space Week (Oct 04 – 10), Newsroom World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (Oct 27), and Dark Matter Day (Oct 31).

Further reading


Richards, R. & du Passquier, T. (1989) Bay Whaling Off South Africa, c. 1785-1805. S. Afr. J. Mar. Sci., 8, 231-250.

Heritage Full Moons in South Africa

MonthFirst Full MoonSecond Full Moon
JanuaryMantis MoonLeopard Moon
FebruaryDassie Moon——
MarchHarvest MoonOchre Moon
AprilDiamond MoonGold Moon
MayFrost MoonFire Moon
JuneSisters MoonHoney Moon
JulyMeerkat MoonProtea Moon
AugustPeace MoonDusty Moon
SeptemberSpring MoonBlue Crane Moon
OctoberWhale MoonElephant Moon
NovemberMilk MoonWool Moon
DecemberSpringbok MoonEland Moon

Protecting South Africa’s astronomical heritage

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